ShareThis Page

'Dirty Wars' comes clean about some ugly practices

| Thursday, July 11, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Does the Bill of Rights apply to all Americans, or only those the government deems worthy?

Should American citizens be assassinated for committing crimes — however heinous — without being charged, tried, or convicted?

These are some of the exigent questions asked by Jeremy Scahill in his new film, “Dirty Wars,” a shocking piece of investigative journalism about the covert campaigns waged by U.S. special forces since the Sept. 11 attacks. (It's a companion piece to Scahill's book, “Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield.”)

More disturbing still, the film contends that these mini-wars escape congressional oversight and media scrutiny because they justify themselves under the banner of the war on terror.

Scahill, 38, a national-security correspondent for the Nation, is author of the 2007 best-seller “Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.”

His latest investigation began as a follow-up story to a 2010 British report that U.S. troops had erroneously targeted a family in Gardez, in Afghanistan's Paktia Province, an area with heavy Taliban activity.

Special forces troops showed up as part of a rapidly escalating series of night raids — 1,700 in a three-month period alone. The troops killed an American-trained police commander and three women, two of whom were pregnant.

Witnesses told Scahill the Americans dug out the bullets lodged in the victims' bodies, wiping out the only forensic clues. NATO's press office tried to cover up the attack by naming the Taliban as the killers. Scahill presented his findings to the House Judiciary Committee — and only one member showed up.

Eventually, the reporter found that the Gardez attack was one of hundreds of missions undertaken by a special forces group called the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which reports directly to the president.

Scahill follows some of JSOC's activities, which go back to the beginning of the war on terror, finding more evidence that the group caused the deaths of numerous terrorists — and plenty of innocent victims in more than 45 countries that are not at war with us.

“Dirty Wars” is essential viewing for all Americans, conservatives and liberals alike. It's intense and depressing. It'll make you angry.

Above all, it'll make you wonder: What are we willing to sacrifice in the name of national security?

Tirdad Derakhshani is a staff writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.